DOL Proposes New Construction PPE Standard
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to clarify the personal protective equipment standard for the construction industry.
According to the release from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the current standard does not state clearly that PPE must fit each affected employee properly. However, OSHA’s general industry and maritime standards do.
The proposed rule change would reportedly clarify that PPE must fit each employee properly to protect them from occupational hazards. It would also align with the language in OSHA’s PPE standard for construction with standards for general industry and maritime.
“If personal protective equipment does not fit properly, an employee may be unprotected or dangerously exposed to hazards and face tragic consequences,” explained Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker.
“We look forward to hearing from stakeholders on this important issue as we work together to ensure that construction workers of all genders and sizes are fitted properly with safety gear.”
The administration says that PPE must fit properly to provide adequate protection to employees. Improperly fitting PPE may fail to provide any protection to an employee, present additional hazards, or discourage employees from using such equipment in the workplace.
OSHA reports that the failure of standard-sized PPE to protect physically smaller construction workers properly, as well as problems with access to properly fitting PPE, have long been safety and health concerns in the construction industry, especially for some women.
The proposed rule clarifies the existing requirement, and OSHA does not expect the change will increase employers' costs or compliance burdens.
The existing requirement says that protective equipment including personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head, and extremities, protective clothing, respiratory devices, and protective shields and barriers, shall be provided, use, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition wherever it is necessary.
This is by reason of hazards of processes or environment, chemical hazards, radiological hazards, or mechanical irritants encountered in a manner capable of causing injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body through absorption, inhalation or physical contact.
Comments and hearing requests can be submitted online using the Federal eRulemaking Portal and reference Docket No. OSHA-2019-0003. These must be submitted by Sept. 18.
Recent DOL Health, Safety News
In June, OSHA issued a release urging small business owners and local government representatives to discuss the potential impacts of a workplace heat standard on small businesses.
According to the release, OSHA is developing a potential standard for workplaces—in which the agency has jurisdiction—to prevent heat illness and injury in outdoor and indoor environments in general industry and in the construction, maritime and agriculture industries.
As part of the process, OSHA is holding Small Business Advocacy Review Panel meetings this summer to gather views on the potential effects of a heat standard on small businesses. The panel will reportedly be comprised of representatives from OSHA, the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy and the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
OSHA adds that, while the panel welcomes representatives from any industry, the group is interested particularly in collecting input from industries the agency expects would be most affected by a heat standard. These industries include agriculture, construction, landscaping, manufacturing, oil and gas, warehousing, waste management, utilities and food service, specifically in restaurant kitchens.
The meetings will be held in teleconferences where small businesses can share concerns and discuss current practices for protecting their employees from heat-related illnesses and injuries. The panel is also seeking input on how new heat regulations might impact their workplace operations or local business communities.
Then, earlier this month, the DOL announced a final rule to require certain employers in designated high-hazard industries to electronically submit injury and illness information to OSHA. According to the release, the new rule will include the following submission requirements:
Additionally, OSHA intends to publish some of the data collected on its website to allow employers, employees, potential employees, employee representatives, current and potential customers, researchers and the general public to use information about a company's workplace safety and health record to make informed decisions.
OSHA says that it believes that providing public access to the data will ultimately reduce occupational injuries and illnesses. The final rule is slated to take effect on Jan. 1, 2024.